The river encroachers are politically and administratively powerful. The rivers are being destroyed by illegal occupation, pollution and illegal sand extraction every day. The civic society has to play the role of the observer to put the administration under pressure to save the rivers. The local community and the beneficiaries have to play a significant role in this regard.
Speakers at a workshop organised by the Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association (BELA) at a restaurant in Chattogram on Wednesday made these remarks. BELA chief executive Syeda Rizwana Hasan chaired the programme.
Social workers and newspersons from different news media in Chattogram, Cox’s Bazar and Feni took part in the workshop. The scenario regarding the illegal occupation and sand extraction in Karnaphuli, Halda, Sangu, Bakkhali, Kuhelika and Feni rivers in the Chattogram region was highlighted.
Those who occupy the river are undermining national interests. If we had not raised our voice to save the river, then the Buriganga river would have turned into residential area long ago. The Bakkhali river would also have ended some 10 years ago. Therefore we need to be vocal.Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive, BELA
Shafiq Haider Chowdhury, the former chairman of the zoology department of Chittagong University, current chairman Manjurul Kibriya, Subhash Barua, vice-president of Parikalpito Chattogram Forum (Planned Chattogram Forum), Jasim Chowdhury, executive member of the Chattogram Press Club and Aliur Rahman, general secretary of Chattogram Nodi o Khal Rokkha Andolon (Chattogram River and Canal Protection Movement) participated in the workshop discussions.
Addressing the workshop, Syeda Rizwana Hasan said, “All rivers are living entities. Therefore, it should be saved. Those who occupy the river are undermining national interests. If we had not raised our voice to save the river, then the Buriganga river would have turned into residential area long ago. The Bakkhali river would also have ended some 10 years ago. Therefore we need to be vocal in this regard.”
Urging the civil society to play the role of an observer, Rizwana Hasan further said, “Some people in the administration make fun of us terming our movement as ‘romantic sadness’. However, we need to move forward towards our goal. If truth and justice win, we will win.”
Aliur Rahman, general secretary of the Chattogram Nodi o Khal Rokkha Andolon (Chattogram River and Canal Protection Movement) presented an article on the pollution and occupation of the Karnaphuli river.
The article said that according to the reports on the waste management system in Chattogram City Corporation, at least 785 tonnes waste merges with the water of the Karnaphuli through different canals. Among these, most are plastic wastes, which are detrimental for the environment.
Apart from pollution, the depth of the river is also shrinking due to the waste. Besides, polythene and plastic particles have been found in the soil that has been lifted from the river. This is highly harmful for the biodiversity of river.
Environmental activists say that the width of Bankkhali river was 1 to 1.5 kilometers once. Due to encroachment, pollution and filling, the flow of water in the river is now 400 meters in some places, 200 meters in some others.
The report further stated that despite high court orders, the activities of evicting illegal structures, established by encroaching Karnaphuli river has stopped. Depth of the river is decreasing due to encroachment and pollution.
Nodi O Khal Rokkha Andolan conducted a survey on Karnaphuli river’s depth and encroachment. Among them, depth on the northern side of Chaktai canal’s confluence was found to be 13.5 feet. Depth on the southern side closer to the banks was found 48 feet. Depth at the confluence of Rajakhali canal was found only 4 feet. And, depth of the river at Firingibazar area was found 7.5 feet.
Earlier on Tuesday Syeda Rizwana Hassan visited Kasturaghat area of Bakkhali, the main river of Cox's Bazar. It was noticed that concrete houses have mushroomed there by clearing out the Parabon forests of Bakkhali river. After grabbing the river, plots have been created and fenced there. There are allegations that local political leaders and activists are occupying the river together.
Environmental activists say that the width of Bakkhali river was 1 to 1.5 kilometers once. Due to encroachment, pollution and landfills, the flow of water in the river is now 400 meters in some places and 200 meters in some others.